For months many country fans anticipated July 17 on the country music calendar, due to new releases from Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson. It was for good reason too, as both new albums delivered as expected, perhaps even beyond expectations for some. But another date I had in the back of my mind was the first week of August and the new album from Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville. To me Ortega is one of the most underrated artists in country music today and gets overshadowed too often, when really there should be a lot of talk about her. Her voice fits right alongside the very best vocalist in the genre not just in today’s world, but the legendary artists from days past. Her 2013 album Tin Star was an absolute gem and if it wasn’t for such a stacked field that year it could have stood out even more. For what it’s worth I had it in my top six for best country albums that year (the others: Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Mavericks, Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves). When she announced earlier this year her new album was coming out in August I immediately marked the calendar in anticipation. Seeing Dave Cobb’s name as the producer for the album made me circle it twice. Faded Gloryville is now here. So what did I think of it? Well it’s pretty damn good if I do say so myself.
The bluesy and soulful “Ashes” opens up Faded Gloryville. And from the first listen of this song I was immediately impressed. The song is about a woman pleading for a man not to leave her behind and simply be ashes in his memories. Not only are the lyrics on point and poignant, but Ortega’s voice is beautifully terrific. It’s an excellent song to open the album. The album’s title track is about the metaphorical town of faded glory, which is a state of mind of people have who once had great success in their past days and can’t attain it again. It’s a longing for something that is no longer there. The songwriting does a great job setting the tone of the song and creating the appropriate imagery in the listeners’ heads.
One of the first songs released from Faded Gloryville, “Tell It Like It Is,” follows. Back in the spring when it first came out I put it in the top ten best country songs list of that month and I’m still very high on the song. It’s a catchy and likeable song, from the lyrics to the instrumentation. “Someday Soon” is about a woman vowing to move on from a unfulfilling relationship. She promises that bright days are ahead and she’ll find happiness. Ortega’s sultry vocals really impress me in this song. It’s arguably her best vocal performance on the entire album. The soulful “To Love Somebody” is next and Ortega continues to impress me with her vocals. This song is about a woman who is madly in love with her man and she explains to her man that he can’t comprehend how much she loves him. It’s a fun little love song that’s easy to get stuck in your head (which is a good thing).
One of the darker songs on the album is “When You Ain’t Home,” which is about a woman experiencing sorrow when her man leaves her home alone. While I can enjoy this song, I was wanting a little more from it. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just felt like there was something missing from this song. Perhaps it needed a more emotional punch for me to connect with it? Regardless I felt this song was just lacking a little bit and the most forgettable song on the album. The rockabilly inspired “Run-Down Neighborhood” is the most lighthearted and fun song on the album. This is despite the song being about friends getting messed up on drugs in a run-down neighborhood. Some might point out that a song like this shouldn’t be so free-spirited and happy, but I disagree. Both the people in this song realize they shouldn’t be doing it, but they’re in a crappy situation and simply trying to find an escape from reality. It isn’t glorifying drugs, but rather the concept of friendship and bonding through an activity they find enjoyable. Personally, I feel it’s quite a solid song.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “I Ain’t The Girl.” It’s a song about Ortega explaining how she isn’t the “perfect”, settled down wife type and isn’t into clean-cut guys. Ortega and the guy she is looking for are more rugged and rough around the edges. Ortega’s matter-of-fact delivery and the witty lyrics combined with her always great lyrics make for one fantastic song. It may seem simple on the surface upon first listen, but it gets better with each listen. “Run Amuck” is about a woman who continues to try to put her man back on the straight and narrow in life. She warns him of all of the troubles he’s causing for himself and yet he still runs amuck. Eventually she gives up and moves on, leaving him to destroy himself. The lyrics are well written and the frenzied guitar play at the end of the song is a really nice touch to add an exclamation point to a really good song.
Faded Gloryville ends with “Half Moon,” the quietest and most haunting song on the album. I would also argue it’s the most complex; as Ortega’s opines of the half-moon represent something more. At the end of the song, Ortega reveals she sees herself when she sees a half-moon hanging in the sky. It’s a beautifully written song that you really need to hear for yourself, as I feel my words don’t do it justice. With each listen I enjoy it more and I think you will too.
Overall I find Lindi Ortega’s Faded Gloryville to be an intriguing and entertaining listen. The bluesy instrumentation is a real highlight throughout the album, as it complements Ortega’s soulful voice well. The songwriting is top-notch too, especially in “Ashes” and “Half Moon.” The second half of the album to me is definitely the more engaging and thought-provoking part of the album. Everything feels a little deeper, even the more lighthearted song “Run-Down Neighborhood.” I don’t find Faded Gloryville to be at quite the same level as Tin Star, but it’s very hard to match an album of that caliber. Even still Ortega came close to matching it, which is impressive in itself. Despite not being at the same level, it’s still very good and for most artists would represent their best. This speaks volumes to the talent of Ortega. You should absolutely check out Faded Gloryville, as I highly recommend it. Ortega is one of the top talents in country music today and she demonstrates it to us once again.